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Health minister asks feds to increase health transfer money

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 04/99) - The three territorial health ministers have asked the federal government to restore health funding to 1994/1995 levels.

But it doesn't look like the request will be answered.

Floyd Roland, the minister of health for the GNWT, said the ministers made the request at a meeting of the country's health ministers two weeks ago in Charlottetown, P.E.I. The response from federal Health Minister Allan Rock?

"We were given a polite response," Roland said.

Roland said the ministers want to return to 1994/1995 health funding levels because that was the year before the federal government began cutting funding transfers.

"The federal government called the last budget the health care budget," Roland said, "and they put billions of dollars back into health care.

"But here in the Northwest Territories, we didn't see very much of it, maybe a couple of million."

At press time, Rock did not return requests for an interview on the subject.

In 1994/95, the GNWT, which still included the area which is now Nunavut, received a little over $48 million from the federal government for health and social services, $16 million of which was earmarked for health, according to Warren St. Germaine, director of financial and management services for the Department of Health and Social Services.

With national inflation rates factored in, that $48 million would now be worth $51 million.

The GNWT and Nunavut received $38.3 million combined this fiscal year for health and social services.

The federal government no longer earmarks funds for specific areas since it changed to the Canadian Health and Social Transfer from the old transfer payment system.

The territorial government decides which health and social programs get the money, said St. Germaine.

Roland said this loss in funding has made it difficult to keep valuable staff, such as nurses.

"We spend twice as much per capita than other jurisdictions on health care," Roland said. "We still have a shortage of nurses, and we need to keep our nurses here."

Roland said the federal government's movement towards transfers calculated per capita, rather than on need, worries him.

"That doesn't help us. It would have a negative impact, so I'm not supporting it," he said.